The Absolute Truth
© 10.14.06 By D. Eric Williams
Is there such a thing as absolute truth? In other words is there truth that is true for every person everywhere on earth? There are many today who say no. They suggest that what is true for me may not be true for someone else. Sometimes those who hold to a relative view of truth will cite differences of opinion as proof that there is no absolute truth. For example the relativist will cite the wide variety of ice cream flavors or neck tie patterns (or equivalent arguments at least), as proof that "what's true for me may not be true for you." However, examples of that sort are just smoke screens. Differing taste in ice cream or ties has nothing to do with truth. A better illustration would be the question of whether ice cream or ties actually exist. In other words, when I insist that ice cream truly exists, am I stating what is genuinely the case? Is the existence of ice cream a fact or is it simply an opinion - like my opinion concerning what flavor of ice cream is best? Obviously it is true that ice cream is real. It is foolish to suggest that "ice cream may be real for you but it's not real for me." It is equally foolish to suggest that truth is relative in any situation.
I've often wondered how an otherwise intelligent human being could say that there is "no absolute truth." The obvious response is, "do you mean that absolutely?" No matter how they answer they place themselves in a bind. If they say yes, then their original statement is false. If they say no, then their original statement is irrelevant. If their statement is false, then it is not a matter of absolutes versus no absolutes but a matter of whose version of absolutes is correct? If the statement is true then they shouldn't have any opinion on the matter in the first place. Indeed their only concern should be in developing a speedy response to stimuli in order to minimize their discomfort when a more powerful entity which disagrees with their view of truth imposes its will upon them. Yet, to say that there is no absolute truth implies that there is no real purpose or meaning in existence anyway, so why bother?
In fact there is no one who really believes that truth does not exist. It is always a matter of one truth claim in opposition to another. If you take the time to question the person who claims to believe in a relative truth, you will find that there are plenty of things that they hold to be absolutely true. That doesn't mean that their beliefs are correct; it simply means that, contrary to their declared creed, they do believe that there are certain things that are actually true rather than relative to individual perception. For instance, every person I've talked to about this issue claims that murder is always wrong (I suppose that there are relativists who believe otherwise but I've never run across one). Every one of them has also maintained that it is wrong to impose your beliefs on another person. The list could go on. The point is nobody actually lives their life in a value free world.
If it is a matter of one truth versus another, how then do we decide which "truth" is actually a genuine statement of the case? Remember; we cannot fall back on the (seemingly), safe position which says that each individual has the right to decide for himself what is true and what is not true. Certainly we all have the right to hold to a personal opinion. But, if in my opinion gravity is an outdated concept, you can be sure that you will suffer the consequences of my false views when I shove you out of the top floor of a twenty-story building to save you the trouble of using the stairs. Belief in a relative truth is not a safe position. Ideas have consequences.
It is difficult to pin down someone who claims a relativistic view of truth. Most often they will say that they share the views of their culture and tradition and nothing more. In other words, they will say that their "truths" are simply the product of an evolutionary process and that each culture produces its own set of truths; "what is right for my culture may not be right for yours." Hence, one culture may embrace polygamy as an acceptable practice while another may not and - according to the relativist - both positions are equally "true." But what happens when two cultures collide? Does it then boil down to might makes right? Does the majority have the right to impose its version of truth on the minority?